Post-Socialist Landscape: a Castle by the Road
Studia Ethnologica Croatica
Postsocijalistički krajolik: dvorac pokraj ceste
This article explores the proliferation of private housing and business objects along major roads that are modelled to resemble castles. I am interested in the changes these structures make in landscape, the new qualities they bring to the surroundings and the meanings they connote. From a first glance at their flamboyant, surreal and naïve forms it is evident that the structures represent nostalgia, exotic places and fantasies. By employing photography based semiotic analysis I seek to
... s I seek to discover how these structures visually convey post-socialist and postwar perspectives and how their stories are connected to the new modernity rising around them. "Tourists seeking casinos and kitschy public versions of traditional culture will greatly outnumber and outspend those seeking authenticity." (Harkin 2003:583) Stud. ethnol. Croat., vol. 27, str. 449-478, Zagreb, 2015. Mišo Kapetanović: Post-socialist landscape: A castle by the road 450 To some extent, the attraction of Mostar's ruins is representative of the entire country. There is dynamic and extensive discussion over the wider context of changes that occurred during the war and its consequences. This discussion has not been followed up, at least not to the same degree, with debate on what has changed after the war independently of the ethnic conflict, or how society is experiencing and responding to such changes. To name just a few, over the last two decades, technologies of communication and knowledge have radically changed with the Internet and cheap affordable smartphones and personal computers; technologies of mobility have become as available (if not always affordable) as second hand cars and, somewhat later, cheap flights entered the market, while public bus companies were privatised, their services divided up between local firms. The state lost the presence it had previously held in many parts of private life, especially those not directly connected with national interests, for example, in supervising the private construction which resulted in an explosion of informal buildings. As most of these changes were simply beyond the ethno-nationalist focus, their effects and people's responses to them remain largely undocumented and under-researched. During the post-war reconstruction process and the later explosion of informal construction 1 there was a profusion of flamboyant and extravagant forms and decorations in vernacular housing 2 . After the war, houses were 1 Informal construction was in the context of late socialist Yugoslavia often conveyed as Illegal construction, framing the phenomenon primarily through its legislative dimension, or building objects without permission or consulting urban development plans (Bežovan and Dakić 1990; Kos 1993) , but its scale significantly increased after the war. 2 The terms "vernacular" and vernacular construction were in local literature primarily explored through ethnographic interest in traditional housing of specific regions. Respectful to this tradition, the qualification "Yugoslav vernacular house" used later in this text might appear as unnecessary generalisation, but I would insist on using it to describe prevalent model of private housing prevalent in both urban and rural environments that rose from specific needs of Yugoslav socialist modernism. Therefore the syntagm Yugoslav vernacular house will be used to describe cheap private housing, simplified version of traditional vernacular models built with modern materials and mass produced throughout the whole former state. While the first mentioned traditional models of regional vernacular housing were well explored, the modernised version was systematically ignored due their ambiguous modern, but common character.